I will never forget an experience I received at the beginning of my service as Mission President in the Philippines Cebu Mission, when I learned by the power of the Holy Ghost that God loves missionaries.
Every week, full-time missionaries throughout the world are required to send a letter to their Mission President. Only two days after we arrived, it was letter writing day in the mission. We had not yet had an opportunity to begin our first tour of the mission to meet and interview the missionaries. As I sat down at the computer that morning, I was amazed as the letters began to fill up my email “in box” on the mission office system. To become better acquainted with our missionaries, I decided to read each missionary’s application to know where they were from and a little information about each one before turning to read the letter.
I first read the application of a sister missionary, a Filipina, that had been serving about a year. As I read, my eyes began to moisten. I felt an overpowering love for this sister and gratitude that she had been worthy and willing to serve. As I read her letter, the tears began to flow. My emotions were so strong that I had to pause for several minutes before continuing. As I pulled the second application from my file, I thought to myself: “I didn’t expect that experience, but now my crying is done for the day.” That was not to be; my experience with the second missionary was the same as the first, and so it continued through every letter I read that day. I read and I cried with joy and love for each missionary.
The love of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ for our missionaries was impressed forever upon my soul by the unspeakable power of the Spirit. A day later, as my wife and I began our first tour of interviews throughout the mission, my heart was still tender with the love I had experienced as I read those letters, and that love has remained with me to the present day.
Not only does God love his missionaries, he blesses them immeasurably as they submit their individual will to the will of the Father and the Son, and serve him and his children with love, diligence and obedience. At the time Thomas Marsh was called to labor as a missionary, the Lord gave him blessings and promises through the prophet Joseph Smith that can be likened and applied to every missionary who is called to serve:
“Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come; … Therefore, thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you, and you shall be laden with sheaves upon your back, for the laborer is worthy of his hire.” (D&C 31:3-5)
Recently, I witnessed the joy in a returned missionary’s face as she told me of a recent visit with someone she had taught and converted, and showed me a photo of her standing with her convert in white outside the temple. Her convert had invited her to attend the temple on the day of her endowment. I was reminded of the Lord’s promise. “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul … how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:15-16)
My heart leaps for joy when I see photos or videos posted on social media, showing young men and women as they joyfully and sometimes tearfully open their calls and read of their assignments to serve in one of the missions of the world. The joy of opening a call will always be remembered, but it will become small in comparison to the marvelous growth and blessings that come into your lives as you serve the Lord in calling his children to repentance and to the covenant pathway. You will cultivate habits of work, study and goal setting, and learn the doctrine of the kingdom. You will experience the mighty change of heart. You will feel “to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26) as you share the Plan of Happiness with others. If you work for it, and allow the Lord to work in you, your lives will be changed forever.
President Gordon B. Hinckley once spoke of the impact that his mission had on his life. “Everything that has happened to me since that’s been good I can trace to that decision to serve a mission and give my life to the Lord” (Quoted in, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, June 1995).
In this generation, the Lord expects each able young man to be worthy and prepare for missionary service. We know there are some who are honorably excused from service due to health or other reasons. To each of you that cannot serve in a full-time capacity, the Lord loves you as we do and we know that compensating blessings will be yours as you worthily serve the Lord in any capacity that fits your circumstances. The Lord also invites young women to serve, when they feel prompted. He knows that young women are equally capable of performing miracles in his name.
In the Philippines, we have 4,042 young missionaries serving, together with 166 senior missionaries. There are 2,655 Filipino missionaries serving in the 21 missions of the Philippines, and 81 serving in foreign missions.
It is wonderful to behold the faith of our young men and young women as they go forth to serve. Our senior couples are worth their weight in gold. But we need more!
“I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father.” (D&C 15:6).
Our dear friends, will you keep yourself worthy? Will you prepare? Will you heed the call of the Lord?